16 August 2005

A Little History

So today we went to a museum that LightHusband and I have been going to off and on since our honeymoon (18 years ago this month). We first started going to it by accident. Opie had given us two nights at a posh resort here on Lake Champlain. It was kind of funny because we fit in there kind of like Fred & Wilma. A very, very young Fred & Wilma. You had to dress for all the meals and we didn't have the requisite clothes and LightHusband didn't want to play tennis or sail; he wanted to fish ... which he did ... on the dock. And caught a sheepshead. Which is a very, very ugly fish ... with stones in it's ears (did you know that fish have ears?). In front of all these rich old people. We didn't fit in. But on the grounds of the resort, just inside the entrance, there was this funny square stone building with a sign on it that said, "Lake Champlain Maritime Museum." So we stopped in ... because anything had to be better than being tortured by properly behaving old rich people.

And we fell in love with the place. Which might have been just a little bit because we were in love too. But mostly it was because the museum is all about the history of Lake Champlain and boating ... specifically naval history on Lake Champlain. Which sort of astounded us. Even growing up in Vermont we didn't think there could be enough of that to have a whole museum dedicated to it. But there is. So here is a little history of Vermont for you. And I think it's important for the time we live in now. But maybe it's not. Maybe I just like history.

Vermont actually played quite a large role in the Revolutionary War. Did you know that? Not many people do. I didn't even know it and I grew up here. I grew up here AND I was fairly heavily involved in Revolutionary War re-enacting when I was in highschool and in fife & drum corps. I didn't really get much a flavor for it until I went to the Maritime Museum. We held the northern front against the British coming down out of Canada. There were many battles fought on Lake Champlain, and Vermont figured in all of them. Early on in the war, Ethan Allen (the hero for whom the furniture store was named ... and please, please, please remember at least that if nothing else) stole the main fort commanding the lake from the British,"... in the name of the Continental Congress and the Great Jehovah!" (in that order) at 4:30 a.m. after a night of revelry ... that fort: Ticonderoga ... which you probably know better for No. 2 pencils now than for military matters.

Benedict Arnold served with distinction in Vermont for several years. In fact, his service here is probably what led to his downfall later on. He broke his leg defending the lake. And his valiant efforts were garnered to another. Which led to bitterness on his part and ill suited posts in an attempt to make up the oversight ... and then treason.

None of this really made the history books, tho. George Washington never slept here. Because when the war was over, Vermont went her own way. We became our own nation for a time. We did not join the union until 1791. We attempted to do our own thing ... charge revenue for passage between Boston or New York and Montreal on Lake Champlain. That did not go over well with the powers that be. So we didn't make it in the history books. We're too small. And too independent. We've stayed that way over the years. We were the 14th state. We never had slavery on our books ... not ever. This is actually an accomplishment.

We're still somewhat independent. When my parents moved our family here in 1968 it was on the leading edge of the influx of "hippies and flatlanders" that came in the late 60's and early 70's. The old timey Vermonters looked askance at the hippies and flatlanders and declared that they are changing the state forever. But I don't think so. I think the state has stayed the same in character ... just the face has changed. After all, we were the last place in almost the whole world to get a Wal-Mart and that only after an extremely bitter court battle. And, it's not doing so well up here in independence land. Us Vermonters are loyal to our independent store owners to a certain extent. Wal-Mart is not doing as well here as they had hoped. So ... there! And, they're not getting another one. They only get one. For the whole state. Hah ... So ... there.

But ... here's what's important to learn from the Revolutionary War. This is actually more global. Our trip to the Maritime Museum got me thinking. We spend alot of time here trumpeting the fact that we won. But let's think carefully about this, and look at it from a little different perspective for a moment. It's not so much that we won, but really, that England ... LOST. Really, what happened was this. England, faced a quagmire half way around the world, fought by a bunch of raghead insurgents, who didn't know how to fight properly, and were only supported by a third of the local population (is any of this starting to sound familiar?). They didn't have proper armaments, and used whatever they had ... but here's the kicker ... they were fighting on their own turf. When I was at the Maritime Museum today I found out that Benedict Arnold designed and built these throwaway battle ships (really, they were floating gun docks) specifically made for Lake Champlain and specifically made to harass the British Army on Lake Champlain. It's long and involved and I won't go into the design aspects of it here ... but it was brilliant for the time. And it was part of what caused George III to lose his appetite for the war. We didn't win, England lost. Really, it's one of the most important lessons that we got out of the Revolutionary War and we seem to have forgotten it.


Blogger ArborSam said...

SONJA: Sam here, I am loving your blog. I love history and I definitely agree with your point. Upstart insurgents win in the end, it may take awhile, but they aren't going anywhere and eventually the (other guys) whomever they are will tire.

8/18/2005 11:12:00 PM  

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